SEO Big Game Hunting – Jeff Preston // Move.com

Episode Overview: Real estate is a lucrative industry where rewards are high, but it’s an industry where the buyer’s journey is longer compared to most. Buying a home is a huge investment, and buyers want assurance and the right information to ensure they’re making the right choice. Join host Ben as he continues his discussion with Realtor.com’s Director of Product Jeffrey Preston on how he captures traffic using SEO within the real estate industry and how the right content can steer buyers toward a rewarding sale.



Ben:                  Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro. And today we’re talking to one of my favorite SEOs who has experience working at some of the largest brands in the world. Joining us today is Jeffrey Preston, who is the director of product at Realtor.com, a subsidiary of News Corp. Prior to his current role, Jeffrey was responsible for optimizing SEO for Realtor.com. And before that he managed SEO at a little company called the Walt Disney Corporation. Yesterday, Jeffrey and I talked about his work at News Corp. And how he’s integrating SEO into the product team. And today we’re going to talk about big game hunting for SEO. How Jeffrey thinks about attracting customers who make million dollar purchases. Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Jeffrey Preston, director of product at Realtor.com, which is a subsidiary of News Corp. Jeff, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.

Jeffrey:            Thank you for having me.

Ben:                  Excited to have you on the show. Yesterday we talked about the changes in your organization. Hopefully what we can call a promotion for you, but moving into the product org where SEO is taking on a more technical focus within News Corp. and taking a product centric mindset. I want to talk to you a little bit today about focusing on the customers in a product where you’re selling million dollar listings. And so, inherently you’re marketing high ticket items. Talk to me about the mindset and strategy when you’re not selling five cent paper clips or $10 widgets, you’re selling million dollar properties. How do you think about content? How do you think about your customers? Walk me through big game hunting through SEO.

Jeffrey:            Yeah. This is a great topic. So thank you for having me. I think there’s a couple of things to think about. One is we think about everyone needs a place to live. There’s that hierarchy pyramid thing where at the bottom is you have to have like a safe place to live.

Ben:                   Lazlo’s Hierarchy of Needs? Is it Lazlo? Am I making that up?

Jeffrey:             Yeah I think that you’re right. You’re right. So at the bottom is everybody needs a place to live.

Ben:                   Maslow. That was close.

Jeffrey:            Maslow, that’s right. And so that’s really important to people that they find the right home, and people are nervous about it because usually that’s the biggest purchase they’ll make in their whole life. So as a product team, and even though we’re an SEO, as a product team you want to make sure that we make it easy for people. So there’s going to be a lot of content that we’re going to produce to help people walk through their first time home buyer experience. Should they buy or rent? Should they live in the big city? Or they should live a little … The suburbs or live out in the country. So when people are making those big purchases, those million dollar purchases, we have to be empathetic I guess with them, and making sure that we have all the content that they might be searching before they make that big purchase.

Ben:                 So there’s a couple of different things I want to dive into. First and foremost segmentation. Right you think about your customers, I think in a couple of different ways based on what you said. You isolated first time home buyers as a persona or a segment. And so there’s first time, multi-time home buyers, I’m sure there’s real estate agents and other people that are involved in the transaction. That is one way of segmentation. There is also the notion of somebody that is buying a very expensive property that maybe has to do more homework, as opposed to somebody that’s looking for a short term rental, probably just looks at some photo and says “Ooh, pretty, great,” click on the button. Obviously it’s not that simple, but a couple different ways to think about segmentation. Talk to me about why it is an experience based segmentation, how much experience you have buying real estate, as opposed to thinking about it from a type of transaction.

Jeffrey:           Yeah. Again, everyone needs a place to live so it’s not an optional thing. It’s not buying a camper or something like that, where some people need it some people don’t, everyone needs a place to live. So then there’s that. So we’ve got to be ready for everyone, I guess, in the United States.

Jeffrey:           And then the second thing though, is that we start to think about how people are emotionally and where they are as far as how nervous they are. Do we have enough content to help them with that? And so we definitely have different personas depending on where you are in that journey. On the other hand, there’s also for other people that own homes that may be thinking about selling. Across the United States right now it’s kind of a sellers market. More people are looking for homes that are selling. So, because of COVID and because of where we are with the economy, do we have content for sellers to know when is the right time to sell, or should I hold on more? Or, what should I do with my loan? Should I … If you’re already in a home, is this a good time to do my mortgage over again? Refinance?

Ben:                So it seems like there’s a question here around the buyer’s journey. And I’m sure everyone’s journey when they’re buying a home is slightly different, but these are long journeys. They’re not, somebody is looking to make a transaction they’re going to do it impulsively. There’s a lot of research and due diligence that goes into buying or selling a home. How do you think about creating, not only a great experience, but great content that serves the customer and keeps them going forward down the path of their buyer’s journey?

Jeffrey:          Yeah, I think there’s different ways that you would create great content and then market it in a way that do we have here’s mapped out the 17 different steps to buying a home, and do we have great content for all those 17 steps? And then if you already have a home but maybe your family’s growing, and it’s time to get a bigger home, do you have a little bit of a different journey. Because now you’ve got to worry about selling and buying, buying your new place and selling. You want to make sure that you do that well.

Jeffrey:          We found that just doing research, actual qualitative research, that people would … Came out this fear of making a mistake, a fear of screwing up that … And when you’re buying and selling, it makes it two X. You want to make sure you’re buying the new home that your family can be happy in and be safe, but also that property you’re moving out of, you would want to make sure you do that really well. So having all of that content and having a way to have some kind of algorithm also on the site that pushes you the right stuff at the right time, there’s a lot of thought that we give to that.

Ben:                So it seems like the market fluctuation is a big, important thing with high ticket prices like real estate. It’s not just is this the right house? Is this the one I want? Is this the right time? Am I buying it? Is it going to appreciate or depreciate? Talk to me about helping customers understand a volatile market. It seems like that’s something that’s critically important to not just real estate, but any sort of big ticket purchase. Is now the right time to put all of your life savings and your hard earned Shekels into something like real estate, as opposed to the market. Talk to me about helping people understand where they are on the journey and if it’s the right time to buy.

Jeffrey:         Yeah. Again just, I think knowing this is all the different possibilities people have and what people are thinking about. Again that takes lots of research. And if you’ve ever done qualitative research, it takes a lot of time to do it right. You have to go to different parts of the United States and get people’s input. But what are they thinking about? Definitely. I think with COVID-19, in that people that lived in big cities and these luxury apartment buildings, that a year ago seemed like a great place. Maybe in March, April, May of this year they were thinking that’s not such a great place to live. I’d rather live out in the country or live out in the suburbs where I have a big backyard instead of being locked down. So definitely things have changed dramatically in the last six months of what people think about as far as making an investment.

Jeffrey:          The second thing I think of is, where’s the economy? So are people more likely to take a risk right now? Or are they going to wait things out and see how things are in the fall or winter.

Ben:                 Right. And when you’re creating content SEO strategies trying to articulate how volatile the market is, how are you bubbling up that content to the person who is considering making a home purchase? How are you making sure that what they’re finding is relevant and actionable today?

Jeffrey:          Yeah. So number one is having really good writers and a great editorial team, and then doing a piece that’s very professionally done and then seeing how it is received, and then using that as a feedback. That’s definitely helped us the most, of saying “Hey, we wrote this piece about how to move from Manhattan, into New Jersey or Connecticut or Long Island,” and then see how much traction those articles get. And then do we need to take that conversation a little bit further? And then trying that piece then again, taking that feedback loop and then helping us to create content that way.

Ben:                It seems like a lot of that is really an editorial decision of how to figure out what content is relevant in real time and puts a lot of need on constantly producing content in a fluctuating market.

Jeffrey:         Correct.

Ben:                I guess the last question I have for you is, you worked at Disney, right? You’re selling $15 DVDs, or promoting them through SEO. And then you move over to realtor and now you’re helping sell up to multimillion dollar properties. You’ve been on both sides of the fence, the impulse purchase, and the … I don’t even know what the opposite of an impulse purchase is, but a well-researched purchase. What do you think are the main differences for an SEO going from, selling high volume low price point content or services, to infrequent content high price point?

Jeffrey:         I think the biggest difference is, and this might be super obvious, but the competition is very, very good. At least in real estate. The competition is very, very good. And so they have great SEO teams at our competing websites. And so the way you think about risk, the way you think about double, triple checking everything before you push it live, becomes a lot more important. Definitely at Disney, there was an expectation you wouldn’t push bad code live and let the users see something that’s broken or a broken image. There were very bad consequences if you did that. But at Realtor, I always know that if I make a mistake or use poor judgment in my SEO plans, that my competitors are just half a step behind me and they’re going to pass me.

Ben:              It seems like it’s not just the Disney products that are less expensive, and I’m specifically thinking about content and DVDs. Less expensive, higher volume, also more competition maybe that’s less experienced as opposed to in the real estate game, probably only a few competitors that are very well practiced. So, you have a smaller subset of the competition to benchmark yourself against.

Jeffrey:       Right. And then we’re going after the same sets of keywords. Where at Disney, I felt, although again, we had, there were high expectations. If Disney Australia lost 10% of their traffic, probably no one would have noticed. As far as the leadership at Burbank, California, they might not notice like “Hey, we screwed up SEO a little bit.” That’s definitely not the case in real estate because, the competitors, we’re all going after the same keywords, the same markets. We all want to be number one in LA and Seattle and San Francisco. So I definitely feel a little bit more pressure personally, and against our team, that we have to be excellent in every way. There’s not a lot of room for error, where at Disney again, we could test something-

Ben:             Higher stakes, more scrutiny.

Jeffrey:       Yeah, correct.

Ben:             Because you have fewer but more focused competition.

Jeffrey:       Correct.

Ben:              Okay.

Jeffrey:        And if you’re selling Star Wars T-shirts, there’s only a couple of places that you could buy them, or it’s always the same place as you’re going to buy them. And us doing extra 10% or 20% probably maybe not noticeable for such a big company, but again when you’re selling million dollar homes or $2 million homes, you’re selling homes in the Bay area, that makes a big difference.

Ben:              Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Well Jeff, again, congratulations on the new role.

Jeffrey:        Thank you very much.

Ben:              Thanks for walking us through how to think about SEO optimization for the big ticket items. And we’d love to have you return as a guest sometime soon.

Jeffrey:        I would love to.

Ben:              All right. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jeffrey Preston, the director of product at Realtor.com, a subsidiary of News Corp. We’d love to continue this conversation with you so if you’re interested in contacting Jeffrey, you can find the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, his handle is Jeffrey Preston, J-E-F-F-E-R-Y P-R-E-S-T-O-N. Or you can visit his company’s website, which is Realtor.com.

Ben:             Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to VoicesofSearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests, you can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the voices of search podcast.

Ben:            Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter. And my personal handle is Ben J Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right, that’s it for today. But until next time remember, the answers are always in the data.

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